The path is clear and therefore the destination shall appear. She was the first Indian to bag the Miss Universe title. She went on to landing many firsts. She went to breaking stereotypes as she dared to live life on her own terms. She was born on 19th November 1975 into a Bengali family in Hyderabad. Her parent described her as a go-getter.
At the age of 17, when she was still in school, she was selected for the Miss India pageant. That year, the stunningly beautiful Aishwarya Rai was participating making 25 others forgo the competition. It was her mother who kept her from dropping out of the race.
Sushmita Sen once told to Zee TV program called Jeena Isi Ka Naam, “we did not have enough money to afford designer outfits. We needed four costumes. We are middle-class people and we knew our restrictions. So we went shopping at Sarojini Naar market in Delhi. Downstairs, in the garage, there was a local tailor who made petticoats. We gave him the material and asked him to make a gown”.
At the age of 18, she beat Rai to clinch the Miss India title. The press termed it as a beauty versus brains competition between the two. For many years the press would continue to compare them. The same year, she went on to win the Miss Universe title, making her the darling of the masses overnight. Right after that, she offered a slew of movies, but she was not keen on becoming an actor. She thought she could not dance. She thought she could not act. After a failed business venture, she decided to give an acting shot. But on the first day of the shoot, she said she stood in front of the camera and froze. Eventually, she picked up the art and at 21 made her Bollywood debut with Dastak. The movie sank at the box office. Three years later, it was her role as a housewife in Biwi No.1 that got her Filmfare Best Supporting Actress.
Taller than the average Indian woman directors hesitated to cast her in lead roles. So, she ended up as the supporting actress in most films. At 24, she adopted her first child: Renee. Adoption by a single Indian woman was unheard of at the time. Over 14 adoption agencies refused her. Many even called it a publicity stunt. But she persevered. When she was 25 years old, she made composer Anu Malik change the lyrics for the song Mehboom Mere since she felt they were suggestive.
The woman who once thought she could not dance, dominated the screen with her moves. Chunari Chunari, Biwi No.1, Dibar Dilbar, Sirf Tum, Prem Rog, Maine Pyaar Kyun Kiya.
At 35, she adopted her second daughter, Alisah. She then took a sabbatical to spend time with her daughters. At 39, she was diagnosed with Addison’s disease, an auto-immune disease affecting the body’s adrenal gland. Over time she fought it through Nunchaku workout sessions to control fatigue and aggression. Through her illness, she would often post-workout sessions making her a social media star. She fearlessly shared her love life online and was appreciated for breaking another stereotype. Love fearlessly, what’s the need to hide your face?
She made an impressive comeback on an OTT platform with Aarya..showing women over 40 could play lead roles. She is Sushmita Sen, forever awoke, living life on her own terms in the spotlight.
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